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To compare the lipid-lowering efficacies of simvastatin and gemfibrozil in NIDDM patients with combined (mixed) hyperlipidemia (CHL) or isolated hypercholesterolemia (IHC).Patients with primary dyslipidemia and NIDDM were recruited for this double-blind, double-dummy comparison study from 10 Finnish centers. After a 4-week placebo run-in period, they were randomly assigned to simvastatin or gemfibrozil. The simvastatin group (n = 47) received 10 mg once nightly for 8 weeks, 20 mg for the next 8 weeks, and 40 mg for the third 8-week period. The gemfibrozil group (n = 49) received 600 mg twice daily throughout the 24 weeks. The lipid-lowering efficacies of both drugs were compared in all patients as well as separately in patients with CHL and IHC.In all patients, simvastatin reduced LDL and total cholesterol and the LDL-to-HDL cholesterol ratio more effectively, whereas gemfibrozil was more effective in elevating HDL cholesterol and decreasing triglyceride levels. The drug effects differed according to lipid phenotype at baseline. Simvastatin decreased LDL cholesterol levels by 30-40% in both phenotypes. Gemfibrozil caused a 15% reduction in LDL cholesterol in IHC but no change in CHL patients. Simvastatin produced 15-30% reductions in triglyceride levels in CHL but no change in IHC patients. Gemfibrozil caused reductions in triglycerides in CHL (50% and more) and in IHC (40%) patients, with 12-18% increases in HDL cholesterol in these groups.Simvastatin is useful in both CHL and IHC patients, whereas gemfibrozil can be used in patients with high triglyceride and low or normal LDL cholesterol levels.